Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why Don't We Take on Any Old Thing If We Think It Will Sell?

STATUS: Will I or will I not catch this cold? Verdict is still out although I stayed home the last two days hoping that would tilt it in favor of the "will not."

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? AIN'T NO SUNSHINE by Bill Withers

Selling a book is not the same as selling a widget--at least for me (although I do know any number of agents who treat it that way and take on a whole lot of projects, throw them out there on submission, and hope maybe 2 out of 5 will stick).

On Facebook, I mentioned that I had recently seen a sale for a project that I read all the way through but in the end didn't decide to take on and that I was thrilled for the author. One commenter just couldn't fathom why I had passed if I could see the sell potential in the project.

The simple answer? Time. I only have so much time to offer to a new client and I simply have to love love love it to make the time investment.

Often times I work with the author through one or two revisions before submitting to an editor. It's not like I offer rep one day and throw it out there the next. I want it to be the most amazing I can make it be. After all, it's been a tried and true way for me to get really amazing money for my authors.

And what if the project doesn't sell? Then chances are very good I'll be spending a lot of time helping them get the next project into shape. And if I only took on a project because of its sell factor, chances are good I may or may not like the writing of the new project. That feels a bit risky to me.

I like taking on the things I feel passionate about because of the very fact that books aren't widgets. Otherwise it's just about the money and though that is one way to agent, it's not right for me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Because You've Asked For It….

STATUS: Another Gorgeous day! Repeat yesterday's status.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LADY IN RED by Chris de Burgh

Or maybe you didn't but are a glutton for punishment anyway. I'm doing my very popular Agent Reads The Slush Pile as an online Webinar coming up on May 2, 2012 6-8 pm MST.

If you can't make it to Denver for the LitFest version of this webinar put on by Lighthouse Writers (where the price is not to be believed but the travel to get there might be rough!), here's your chance to finally experience it for yourself.

Have you ever wondered how an agent reads the fiction submission slush pile? What an agent is thinking during the first opening pages? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? 

If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop without metamorphosing. 

Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read the first 2 pages of any submission, the “slush pile”, and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not read on for the sample pages in front of her.

 A couple of things before you click on that button:

1) This webinar is not for the faint of heart. It's brutal. Now trust me, I will be as helpful and honest as possible. This is not to ridicule writers.  But don't kid yourself, it will be tough. If you are feeling fragile or that feedback might crush your writer dream, now is not the time for this workshop. If you are tough as nails, just about to submit, want an immediate honest response, then this might be worth doing.

2) It needs to be the actual, opening first 2 pages of your manuscript. If you have a prologue, skip it and grab page 1 and 2 from your chapter one.

3) We can't promise to read every single entry but we are definitely going to try. If I only have a few left over, I'll respond on the sample pages and we can send to those writers privately. Right now, I know we can get through them all.

4) You can "audit" the class. Sign up to be there and listen in but you don't send on the 2 pages. This is for those who are curious about it but not ready to have sample pages read.

If you've ever wondered how an agent could make a decision so fast on whether to read on or not or to ask for pages, this webinar will definitely answer that question!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Criterion For Evaluating An Agent

STATUS: Gorgeous day! Must. Leave. Early. Chutney seconds that.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATHE AWAY by Berlin

This week, Blogger decided to completely reformat their dashboard. I honestly cannot find anything or tweak the colors. Took me five minutes to find my previous postings so I could do my after-posting editing for Friday's entry. LOL. I should never blog in a hurry but sometimes, I have to do it on the fly or it's just not going to happen.

I want to expand a little on Friday's post. I think the most important criterion to evaluate before querying an agent is that agent's record of sales. Agents should be agenting and therefore selling stuff on a fairly regular basis. And they should be selling stuff that is in the genre of the work you are pursuing representation for.

If an agent is fairly new but at an established house, they should still have a track record of sales since they are using the agency's reputation when approaching editors. Their stuff will get looked at and since they usually read in front of an established agent and have "training" so to speak; they have honed their eye and will know what will sell.

How can you find out what agents have sold and recent deals? Well, Publishers Marketplace is an excellent resource. Keep in mind, however, that not all agents list their sales there. So that's not the end all be all. I've actually not been announcing a lot of stuff lately for a variety of reasons.

Still, a lot of agents will have pages on Publishers Marketplace or dedicated websites which will show covers of recent releases etc.

If an agent has been "agenting" for awhile (such as 3 years or more) but doesn't have a lot of sales and to the major publishers, well, I'd take that as negative indicator of their agenting ability.

Also, just in general, agenting is a full-time job. I'd also be hesitant about agents who have been established for a long time but are doing a variety of other jobs on top of agenting.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Do You Know If An Agent Is A Good Agent?

STATUS: Today I crushed many a sensitive soul during my crafting your query pitch workshop. Just kidding. They all said it was great and learned a lot. I'll take them at their word.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET'S GET IT ON by Marvin Gaye

This evening, a writer sat down next to me and asked if I knew XYZ agent and what I thought of her. I actually didn't recognize the agent's name and so I couldn't help her by sharing an opinion. Certainly I know a lot of agents in the biz but it's simply not possible to know ALL the agents practicing out there--especially a lot of the newer agents who are just starting out.

She then wanted to know how she could tell whether an agent is a good agent.

This is definitely a question that has been tackled on Absolute Write and Backspace.org and any search could probably bring up hundreds of forum posts regarding it.

For me, it's simple. What is an agent's track record of sales? If solid, then it's probably just going to be a matter of whether you also connect with the agent as a person. By the way, whether an agent with a good track record is a good fit for you as an author is actually a whole different question than whether an agent is a good agent. One agent might be fantastic for one kind of client and disaster for another client who has different needs.

If the agent is new, how new? Are they with an established agency or agent with a good history of sales so the newbie has a mentor for questions? If an agency is brand new, did the agent work for an established firm before going out solo (so even though the sales record might be small at the moment, it's understood that the agent comes with a solid background in the field).

Trust your common sense and what your gut tells you. Make sure you're not wearing blinders when it comes to your publishing dream. The idea that any agent is better than no agent is most often not true.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Kristin Requested From Pitch-A-Palooza

STATUS: Started out the week with 354 emails in the inbox after being out for RT. Only 203 to go. Progress!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TUFF ENUF by Fabulous Thunderbirds

Does it say anything about trends? Probably not but just in case you are curious, here are the types of projects I requested.

2 paranormal adult romances
1 contemporary adult romance
3 women's fiction projects
1 SF romance (haven't seen one of these in a while--kind of excited!)
1 SF (but not a romance)
2 contemporary YA
2 paranormal romance YA (I have to be honest, this genre is getting to be a tough sell to editors who have seen nothing but this for the last two years.)

And my sincere apologies to anyone that I had to turned down during the Palooza. When it's a speed dating format like that, I do have to say no to projects that don't grab me immediately to reduce the amount of material we receive and have to review. We requested 12 projects but I had over 25 pitches that day. That's a lot in 90 minutes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Asking ABout The Next Trend Is The Wrong Way To Go

STATUS: I feel like I'm being pulled in 10 different directions. I'm here at the RT Convention. On Tuesday, I offered rep to a potential new client. Wednesday I did an hour phone conference with a film producer for another client. Yesterday, I reviewed 5 different offers for a UK auction going down. Today let's talk about romance. It's almost time for Pitch-a-Palooza!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF IT'S LOVE by Train

But writers can't help themselves. They still ask this question anyway.

At best, this question is unhelpful. If you start writing for the "next hot trend" by the time you finish your project, that particularly trend is on the way out.

Not to mention, if you ask me the question, "What are you looking for?" I can ramble on about something I'd love to see (such as a completely charming, witty, and fun historical romance a la Julia Quinn) but what I offered rep for just this week would never have landed on my "This is what I'm looking for" list.

I'm constantly taken by surprise by what I fall in love with.

After being here at RT, certainly I can tell you that editors are weary of paranormal romance. That everyone is talking about erotica because of 50 Shades (by the way, I don't rep erotica so please don't query me for that.)

That "hook-y" women's fiction novels (i.e. hooks like a knitting club or cupcake club) are still on editors' wish lists (which by the way, are topics that don't ring my bell much).

I can tell you that a lot of the romance editors also rep YA and they might be moved to violence if just one more YA paranormal romance lands in their submission inbox.

I can tell you all these things and then I can also tell you that the minute the "right" project lands in that same inbox--even if it contains any of the above--but it blows them away, they'll offer for it.

So I can't tell you what I'm looking for as an agent. I can only say that I'm going to know it when I see it and this: I haven't taken on a romance author in over the year. I'm opening my universe up to that possibility as I'd love to read an awesome romance right now.

I've been in my "dark" phase for the last 7 months by taking on dark and gritty SF.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Panster And The Editorial Road Map

STATUS: A lovely lovely spring day. I'll work for a bit and then simply enjoy the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHY by Annie Lennox

As a writer, are you a panster or an outliner?

I ask because your answer determines when you'd assemble the road map of your novel.

If you are a panster, don't attempt the road map until you have finished a full draft and at least one revision.

Why? Because if you do it too early, the process of outlining can suck the creative spark or essence of storytelling right out of your project.

I've seen it happen with several of my clients who are not intrinsic outliners. It is simply not how their creative process works and the process of doing so dampens the story voice.

But eventually, once the story is down on paper (or should I say computer screen) then I highly recommend the road map. It reveals, very clearly, the bones of the story.

More importantly, it also reveals what is structurally weak in the plot.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Creating An Editorial Road Map

STATUS: I'll be out of the office all next week for the RT Convention in Chicago. Wait, wasn't I just out of town?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PYRO by Kings of Leon

More and more as of late, I find myself creating what I call an editorial road map for any novel.

Now, when I edit a client manuscript, I use track changes to make comments as I read along. That's pretty standard

But lately, after I finish the entire read, I then go back through the novel to construct the road map. In this process, I literally skim through the work, chapter by chapter, and I create an outline of all the major plot points by chapter for the novel.

I find that the process of formulating the outline allows me to create a framework for writing up my editorial letter.

Via the outline, I can clearly point out what works, what doesn't work, where it should build tension or escalate the stakes, what could be deleted to tightened or even if the story has gone off the rails completely.

It's definitely more work on my part but I think it a valuable exercise. In fact, my "road map" critiques are becoming a bit legendary with my clients. *grin* They love it (or maybe they are too afraid to say otherwise!)

And to be blunt, from a lot of the sample pages and full manuscripts I've read within the last 6 months, I think many writers could benefit from doing a critique road map of their own. It really does force you to ignore character, dialogue, description and boil the story down to its plot skeleton core.

A lot can be revealed about pacing and story arc.

Hum…. I'm sensing there may be a workshop idea here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Can't Resist Facebook Any Longer

STATUS: I was wondering when the "too good to be true" weather would end and we'd get the smack down. It snowed today. Spring in Colorado.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WISHING YOU WERE HERE by Chicago

Honestly, I'm just not clever enough for Facebook. Or that's how I feel most of the times. I've been on FB for several years just for family and friends. I like it well enough but post sporadically. However, I love reading everybody else's posts.

But lately, I've been having little tidbits of things that I would love to share but the blog doesn't feel like the right spot to do it. We've had an NLA page but I didn't really pop on it it often enough. I decided it has to be unique to me to give it care an attention. So here we go.

It's only been up a day or so and I already have 10 likes! I felt a little thrill. 10 likes!

See that's the power of Facebook. It makes you delighted over such a small thing….

I've posted some action pics during the webinar. Can you believe an attendee grabbed some screenshots and sent them to me? So fun. I loved that she did that.